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Spring Update

May 2014


Lots of New Developments at FLI

We've owed FLI's supporters news for a while now, and it seems as if the news has just piled up in the meantime! We apologize for the length of our May 2014 eNewsletter, but hope you will give the stories in this edition a look and enjoy them.

FLI Executive Director Amy Rolfes Exploring Africa Opportunity

FLI's executive director of the past five years, Amy Rolfes, has been offered the opportunity to become co-director, with her husband, Mark, of an orphanage in South Africa. We are so proud of her commitment to children in need! Amy is currently on a leave of absence while she and Mark are on a site visit. They return to Ann Arbor in late May to make their final decision. Amy has given so much to FLI, and her leaving would be a great loss, but we are inspired by her example and confident in our potential transition plan, about which more below.

Welcome FLI's new Acting Executive Director, Charmin Archer

CharminFLI's program (client services) manager for the past two years, Charmin Archer, has been named FLI's Acting Executive Director while Amy is on leave. An Ann Arbor native, Charmin earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in elementary education from the City College of New York. She has 14 years' experience teaching on the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, in Harlem, Detroit, Ethiopia, and the Caribbean. Charmin is experienced writing curriculum, including a secondary history curricula recently developed for an international non-profit organization. In 2012, Charmin moved back to Ann Arbor and joined the University of Michigan's Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness (MCEE) project, where she observed and provided feedback for approximately 50 teachers throughout the state and had the opportunity to identify and witness best practices. Charmin joined FLI as a writing instructor in the fall of 2012 and quickly became Program Manager, where she created Algebra Academy was instrumental in establishing FLI's on-site outreach programs in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti (see articles below). Charmin is a proficient Spanish speaker who enjoys spending time with her son, traveling, and reading. 

FLI's staff and board of directors will work closely over the next few months to finalize a permanent transition plan, should one be needed. In the meantime, FLI is not missing a beat, ending the year with some of the strongest test scores we've ever seen and planning an expansion of our summer program, Brain Boot Camp. If you have any questions during this time of change, please reach out and contact us. We're happy to talk.

Kitchen Table Classroom is Here

Kitchen Table Classroom (KTC) is FLI's new video series aimed at helping parents become better at being their children's first teacher. Studies show that the language environment in the home is a major determinant of a child's future vocabulary and reading skill. KTC gently coaches parents how to read and do school work with their children through tips from our Reading Specialist, JoEllen Mogelgaard, and enactments by real parents and children. Topics cover phonics, communications with schools, comprehension, and much more. The first "season" of eight episodes is currently running on CTN, channel 17; see schedule here. Special thanks to CTN for donating studio and equipment time and airing KTC, and to Dave Knight, our volunteer producer and director extraordinaire. KTC is part of FLI's burgeoning family literacy program, which includes child education (our core program), parent education (KTC and home visits by an FLI social worker), and adult education (through partnership with Washtenaw Literacy). We're putting the "family" in Family Learning Institute!

FLI Hosts College Prep Workshop on April 19th

As FLI expands in Washtenaw County, it recognizes that success in elementary school, our core mission, is only the beginning of success in life. It is never too early to begin thinking about college. On Saturday, April 19th, FLI is hosting a college prep workshop for its parents and students at the Mallets Creek Library from 1- 2:30 pm. The workshop includes discussions about the importance of college, how parents can start thinking and preparing their children for college in middle and high school, information about the financial aid process, and how to access available private scholarships. These discussions will be accompanied by a fun "Pathway to College" board game to get both the children and parents involved. The workshop will end with a panel made up of the FirstGens, a group at the University of Michigan comprised of first generation college students. The goal of the workshop is to inspire participants to think about college in a practical way, provide necessary information, and encourage them to partake in the college-going culture. 

Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation's Youth Council Awards FLI Grant for Algebra Academy

In November 2013, the Youth Council, a body of philanthropically-minded high school students who make grants from a fund managed by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, awarded FLI almost $6,000 to implement its innovative new Algebra Academy program. Algebra Academy, a collaboration with Young People's Project, brings together college and high school students to serve as math tutors and motivational mentors for middle school youth. We know that many of our students who leave FLI after 5th grade still need supplemental assistance to meet the new state standard of completing Algebra by 8th grade, and that there is a strong correlation between success in 8th grade Algebra, high school graduation and college attendance. Algebra Academy brought together six recent FLI graduates with 15 students from Ypsilanti's YCS High School and New Tech H.S. and Ann Arbor's Community H.S. each Saturday throughout 2014, and has been a tremendous success for all youth involved. To learn more about the philosophy and program behind Algebra Academy, please contact us.

FLI On-Site Outreach Programs Mature and Grow

February 2014 was a landmark month for FLI. For the past several years, we have been experimenting with pilot projects to bring our unique, individualized, one-on-one intensive literacy and academic development program to where students live and play after school. Outreach overcomes barriers to access like transportation and parental work schedules while avoiding costly new overhead for FLI. The lessons learned through these efforts culminated in February with the launch of two highly successful sites with partners Ann Arbor Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools, one at Northside Elementary in Ann Arbor and the other at Grace Fellowship House of Solutions in Ypsilanti (working with students from Erickson Elementary). The schools and church are recruiting volunteers and leveraging their relationships with parents and students to encourage attendance. We are exercising our core competency -- assessing students, creating tailored lessons, and training and overseeing volunteers. It is a true win-win. We are serving 18 students grades 2-4 and our vision is finally becoming a reality, made possible by several years of farsighted and generous support from the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor, and PNC Foundation, and recent major grants for all aspects of FLI's expansion from the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation and the James R. & Anita Horne Jenkins Family Foundation.

Volunteer Now to Help with FLI's Summer Programs

FLI is currently recruiting volunteers for our summer programs, which run from late June to the early August. Please contact Christy Martin at or give us a call.

Thank You for our Office Remodel

A quick shout out to everyone who helped us reorganize, remodel, and paint our offices recently. The Coaches' Room was moved to the back and the kitchenette shifted to a less obtrusive location, freeing up space for a separate administrative office and private student testing area. Special thanks to Jeri Burbank, Megan Hocking, and Larry Krueger for their extraordinary efforts.

Bee on Board for Literacy Spelling Bee

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Join us for FLI's 8th annual Bee on Board for Literacy spelling bee fundraiser on May 2nd at Washtenaw Community College! Twenty teams of three adults battle for the title while spectators enjoy food from Zingerman's Community of Businesses, beer from Wolverine State Brewing Co. (and other beverages), and music from the Community H.S. Jazz Band. Our emcee this year is again local theater luminary Malcolm Tulip. Visit our website or contact us for details, tickets, or to enter a team.

Special Thanks to our 2014 Bee Underwiters

Zingermans Community of Businesses logo
and Sheila Crowley and Max Wicha, M.D.

Zingerman's Community of Businesses' Tour de Food to Benefit FLI!!

During March or April, take Zingerman's Community of Businesses' Tour de Food  -- a visit to all five Zingerman's locations in a 24-hour period -- and they will donate $5 to FLI. You'll also be entered to win a $250 gift card!

FLI Honors Former Board Chair Judith Hommel

Judith HommelFormer FLI board chair, continuous advocate, and good friend Judith Hommel died on February 9th of this year. We are all deeply saddened by her passing, but inspired by her memory and her many good works in the community helping disadvantaged children and promoting the arts. Please remember and honor Judith's life by taking a moment to learn more about her legacy here and here.

Kiwanis and Buhr Foundation Fund New Computers for FLI!

In 2013 and 2014, FLI was awarded two grants to purchase brand new computer equipment. The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor donated $2,600 to equip all our students with laptops while they are here, enabling FLI to take advantage of new online learning tools. The Buhr Foundation donated almost $7,000 for a complete upgrade of FLI's antiquated office IT infrastucture, including computers, software, and a new color inkjet printer. We are so much more productive and can't thank these two organizations enough!

FLI Welcomes Children's Literacy Network

During 2013, Children's Literacy Network (CLN), a Washtenaw County nonprofit with a mission very compatible with FLI's -- promoting reading and a love of books among disadvantaged children -- moved into FLI's space to share facilities and overhead costs. CLN adds expanded book giveaways for our families and we are starting to collaborate on joint grants. Welcome to FLI's newest partner in advancing literacy in our county, CLN!

Tel: (734) 995-6816


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